by HealthWrights staff

In the “Three Pillars of Zen” by Rosh Philip Kapleau, there is an interesting little section entitled “Oneness and Manyness.” In this section Kapleau makes the point that as a seeker advances in his or her understanding, the “awareness of the world of oneness, of non-differentiation, becomes clearer.” This perception of oneness clarifies our understanding of manynesss without negating it. His description of the process of becoming aware of oneness is worth noting.

“At the beginning, the perception of oneness is not distinct – there is still the idea of “something confronting me!” With deepened practice this barrier gradually dissolves. Even so, the feeling that others are actually oneself is still weak, and this is particularly true when these others have qualities we do not like. With a shallow kensho [”seeing into one’s own nature”] we resist the feeling that such people are indeed oneself. With further training, though, you are able to live a life of equality and to see that even people whom you recognize as having negative characteristics are not less than yourself.”

I think that in that last sentence he does not simply mean that people with negative qualities are not inferior to oneself, but that they are not other than oneself. In this experience of oneness we become aware of a truth that is deeper than the distinctions we make between you and me, between a self and a world that confronts it, or between an inner world and an external world. From the perspective of this oneness, the distinction between sitting in meditation and action in the world might also take on a different meaning – might be seen as just two aspects of a single practice.

Such a radical vision of “oneness” cannot help but have political ramifications. The Buddhist aim of freeing oneself, and in addition all sentient beings, from suffering must be seen in this context of “oneness” – a oneness in which inner and outer, you and me, action and meditation, are secondary. Seen in this perspective, it is not so much a question of how politics might grow out of, be informed by, or be consistent with an underlying spirituality. Politics, when its aim is the alleviation of all unnecessary suffering, blame, oppression, and constriction, is, in its own right, a spiritual path.

“New Voices in Engaged Buddhist Studies,” is a bit longer than most of the articles included on this site. However, it is such an excellent overview and introduction to an exciting and promising dialog, it is worth reading with some care. This article was the final article in “Engaged Buddhism in the West” and it served to summarize much of what went before.

New Voices in Engaged Buddhist Studies

by Kenneth Kraft, 1999.11.30

An American Buddhist magazine recently ran the following classified ad:

The Greyston Mandala, an innovative Buddhist-inspired community development organization in Yonkers, New York, is creating a new position of Director of PathMaker Services. With 120 employees, Greyston serves economically disenfranchised families and individuals through housing development, enterprise creation, jobs.

Masters degree preferred, with professional experience in human resource/organizational development, counseling, popular education, engaged Buddhism or other socially engaged spiritual tradition, or related field. Excellent salary and benefits (1)

Professional experience in engaged Buddhism as a job qualification? The placement of “engaged Buddhism,” “masters degree,” and “salary and benefits” in such close conjunction is surely a first, and may indeed have caught the eye of an unusual group of job-seekers.

The Greyston ad is also an auspice of an emerging field: engaged Buddhist studies. Other evidence abounds. In 1995 the Naropa Institute of Boulder, Colorado, “a fully accredited Buddhist university,” introduced a program leading to a masters degree in engaged Buddhism. Judith Simmer-Brown accordingly refers to a colleague as “engaged Buddhism faculty at the Naropa Institute.”* The Boston Research Center for the 21st Century, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has pioneered an engaged Buddhist research center based outside academia. Created in 1994 by Soka Gakkai International and administered in a nonsectarian spirit, the Center supports an ambitious roster of activities and publications.

In 1996 Harvard University’s Center for the Study of World Religions hosted a major conference on Buddhism and ecology. Over a dozen recent books qualify as initiatives in engaged Buddhist studies.(2) Three very different journals, the Journal of Buddhist Ethics, Seeds of Peace, and Turning Wheel, are extending the conversation.(3) A first-of-its-kind electronic conference on engaged Buddhism, featuring peer-reviewed papers and free public access, will take place in the spring of 2000, coordinated by the Journal of Buddhist Ethics.

This volume builds on these developments and advances the field. The contributors have backgrounds in academia, Buddhist practice, political activism, the environmental movement, and international relief work, often in combination. Because this is the first collection of essays to focus on engaged Buddhism in the West, the collaboration is unprecedented for the writers as well as for readers. In many cases, engaged Buddhist scholars and thinkers are learning about one another’s work for the first time, having yet to meet in person.

Parameters of Engaged Buddhist Studies

The subject matter of engaged Buddhist studies is engaged Buddhism, but the meaning of “engaged Buddhism” is far from settled. The title of the first chapter asserts, All Buddhism Is Engaged. Paula Green declares in her essay, “Every moment of life is engagement; every moment of life is Buddhist.” Franz-Johannes Litsch goes on in this expansive mode: “Engaged Buddhism”encompasses all schools, all cultures and ethnic groups, both genders, and the totality of life on our planet.” Although such inclusive definitions are appealing in some situations, more precise definitions are needed in others.

For example, it is important to be able to say what is not engaged Buddhism. Aum Shinrikyo, the “new-new religion” in Japan whose members released lethal sarin gas on Tokyo subways, uses Buddhist terminology and has definite ideas about changing the world for the better. There is even a photograph of the group’s founder, Asahara Shoko, being greeted warmly by the Dalai Lama. Yet Aum Shinrikyo hardly qualifies as a form of engaged Buddhism. Why do we believe it does not? How would we compose an explanation?(4)

Any living religion or vital social movement changes constantly. Today, the Dalai Lama is widely regarded as the quintessence of engaged Buddhism, while a figure such as Jon Kabat-Zinn, who uses meditation techniques in pain-relief therapy, seems to occupy a more marginal position. Yet one can also imagine the reverse, say twenty years from now: the movement for Tibetan autonomy fails, the succession of Dalai Lamas is disrupted, and Buddhism becomes a force in Western culture through its impact on psychology and medicine. However serviceable, designations such as “engaged Buddhism” or “Buddhism” are constructions, limited and ultimately insubstantial. Even the most apparently detached and descriptive forms of historical research and writing are actually acts of dividing and shaping reality, a process that is considerably more creative than one might assume. As efforts to define engaged Buddhism continue, the indeterminate and contested aspects of the subject can function fruitfully as stimuli rather than impediments.

Buddhist Studies in Transition

Engaged Buddhist studies has arisen through the confluence of two factors: the vitality of engaged Buddhism itself and the increasing maturity and openness of mainstream Buddhist studies. For generations, Buddhist studies has been grounded in an empirical approach that emphasizes the mastery of Asian Buddhist languages and the critical, philological study of Buddhist texts. Ph.D. candidates typically demonstrate their competence by translating canonical works. The text is the authority; the translator has little standing. One contemporary scholar recalls his graduate-school training as follows:

“To seek to use the understanding gained from this [Buddhist] lineage as a foundation for one’s own evaluation and critique was considered presumptuous and somehow unseemly. It would be impossible for us to ever surpass their understanding; our task was to represent it accurately in English.” (5)

While the rigorous scrutiny of texts still prevails in European and Japanese Buddhology, Buddhist studies in North America has become a broader enterprise, embracing a range of multidisciplinary and comparative methods. Often situated within departments of religion or Asian studies programs, American Buddhist scholars are likely to look beyond texts to contexts, treating rituals, gender-related matters, and other aspects of lived tradition as suitable objects of study.(6) Confidence in “value-free” empiricism has waned, and texts are no longer seen as stable artifacts. Bernard Faure, a Buddhist scholar equally versed in textual analysis and postmodern thought, observes, “All this makes it rather difficult to know where the tradition (here the Chan/Zen tradition) ends and where scholarship begins”let alone where scholarship ends and I begin.”(7)

Topics that were formerly out-of-bounds are taken up by senior scholars, and forms of discourse once shunned “normative, prescriptive, pastoral, confessional” are increasingly tolerated.(8) Richard Hayes, a scholar of systematic Buddhist philosophy, has written Land of No Buddha: Reflections of a Sceptical Buddhist (maintaining that it is “not intended to be a ‘professional’ monograph”).(9) A similarly subtitled book by Tibetan Buddhist scholar Jeffrey Hopkins, The Tantric Distinction: A Buddhist’s Reflections on Compassion and Emptiness, is advertised as his “personal, individual experience with Buddhism.”(10)

Until recently it was taken for granted that the study of Buddhism was the study of other cultures. “Buddhist Studies continues to be a Western enterprise about a non-Western cultural product,” wrote Luis Gomez in 1995.(11) Suddenly there are demands from scholars and students that the study of American Buddhism be given greater weight. “I have the feeling that-at long last Buddhist studies has awakened to the reality of the historic transmission and transformation of Buddhism going on right before its eyes,” Franz Aubrey Metcalf contends.(12) Using phrases such as “the American Buddhist movement” and “the American Buddhist tradition,” Charles Prebish and others go so far as to argue that a doctoral degree in Buddhist studies should now include “proper attention” to American Buddhism.(13) If American Buddhist studies and engaged Buddhist studies continue to develop, the two fields will have areas that overlap. However, engaged Buddhism is not just American, and American Buddhism is not always engaged, so the two disciplines will also differ.

A Variety of Voices

The term “engaged Buddhist studies” contains a potential ambiguity, but perhaps it is a welcome one. As engaged Buddhist studies, it refers to the study of engaged Buddhism. This primary meaning is sufficient in most instances. As engaged Buddhist studies, the term suggests approaches that incorporate personal religious beliefs, political commitments, or other forms of involvement. Though secondary, this meaning is also pertinent at times. A defense of engaged Buddhist studies (a task beyond our present scope) would bring into view an abiding tension in modern religious studies: the study versus the practice of religion.

In order to identify some of the representative stances within the field, it may be helpful to imagine a large round table, with different groups clustered at different points. (King Asoka’s Round Table?) The three largest groups are scholars of engaged Buddhism, Buddhist scholars who are engaged, and non-academic engaged Buddhist thinkers. There is no need to affix a permanent label on anyone cited below as an example of a position; at a lively gathering people move around freely.

On one side of the table are the scholars who objectify engaged Buddhism as a subject of study. The concerns of this approach include the command of pertinent sources and languages, the establishment of definitions and criteria, and the application of suitable theoretical frameworks. Those who work in this mode strive to uphold an established set of academic standards, avoiding personal views, citing sources carefully, not prejudging results, and so on. David Chappell’s essay in this volume is a good example of this approach. On this same side of the table one also finds scholars of traditional bent who acknowledge some degree of personal involvement in Buddhism but choose not to write as Buddhists. Recent surveys of Buddhist scholars in North America indicate that about a quarter identify themselves as scholar-practitioners; it is estimated that another quarter are privately Buddhist.(14)

The second large group at the table consists of Buddhist scholars who are somehow engaged. Among them are academics actively involved in a Buddhist-related political cause, such as the Free Tibet movement. “Tibet has been the prime source for the teachings that constitute my own practice of Buddhism,” Jeffrey Hopkins says in these pages, “so I think that I’m obligated to help [Tibet] in whatever way I can.” Here too are scholars who are closely affiliated with a Buddhist community. Contributor Andrew Olendzki, a Ph.D. in religious studies, directs a Buddhist studies center created by the Insight Meditation Society, a practice community in Barre, Massachusetts. Kenneth Tanaka, a professor at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, is also a spokesperson for Pure Land Buddhists in North America.

The role of participant-observer often suits this group, as exemplified by Roger Corless’s essay on the Gay Buddhist Fellowship of San Francisco. According to Corless, “The appropriateness of this [participant-observer approach] as a way of deconstructing the pseudo-objectivity of academic method, especially in discussions about sexuality, is now generally accepted.”(15) A different kind of participant-observation is demonstrated by Paula Green, who concludes her essay with an expression of respect for the subjects of her study:

“I wish to express my enduring appreciation to Kato Shonin and Sister Clare of the Leverett Peace Pagoda, not only for their essential contributions to this chapter but for the blessings of their presence in my life”. I bow deeply with thanks and gratitude for the moral vision of all the monks and nuns of Nipponzan Myohoji, both in the US and abroad.”

Some of the Buddhist scholars who are engaged address the question, What does it mean to be both a scholar of Buddhism and an engaged Buddhist? Here academia offers precedents in the self-critical reflections of Christians who teach Christianity, or Jews who teach Judaism. Increasing numbers of academically credentialed thinkers do not hesitate to challenge or reconstruct Buddhism from within the Buddhist tradition. For example, Sallie King writes in this mode when she assesses the self-immolation of Buddhist monks and nuns during the Vietnam War:

“Let me state my own conclusions, as an American Buddhist and as a Buddhist scholar, as clearly as possible. At the end of the day, the actions of [self-immolators] Thich Quang Duc and Nhat Chi Mai remain profoundly challenging. Like others, I am in awe of their courage, selflessness, and capacity to love. But I remain troubled by the lingering moral issues which, to my mind, remain unresolved. Buddhist institutions have a duty as far as possible to prevent these actions which in many ways embody the Buddhist religion at its best.”(16)

Another side of our round table is occupied by Buddhist practitioner-activist-thinkers who do not have formal ties to academia. This group demonstrates that engaged Buddhist studies can be pursued seriously and creatively from within the movement as well as from an outside perspective. Human rights, gender issues, education, and the nature of desirable societies are topics of particular concern. Several leading figures are identified in these pages: Sulak Sivaraksa, Thai activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee; Robert Aitken, Zen teacher and Buddhist Peace Fellowship cofounder; Ken Jones, author of two books on Buddhism and society; Alan Senauke, director of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship; and Santikaro Bhikkhu, a senior disciple of the Thai scholar-monk Buddhadasa.

Individually and collectively, the members of this group are interested in developing “engaged Buddhist social theory.” Jones offers a definition:

“an explication of social, economic, and political processes and their ecological implications, derived from a Buddhist diagnosis of the existential human condition.”(17)

For example, engaged Buddhist social theory (even in outline form) holds that the traditional “three poisons”“greed, anger, and ignorance”do not apply only to individuals; these behavior patterns must also be analyzed and combatted as large-scale social and economic forces.

Of course, the same person can represent different stances at different times, depending on the intended audience or other conditions. Jeffrey Hopkins published two books in 1999: the personal reflections noted above and Emptiness in the Mind-Only School of Buddhism, a learned treatise of more than 500 pages. Robert Thurman’s translations of sutras and other classic texts are replete with annotation and other scholarly apparatus; his most recent book, Inner Revolution, has just two footnotes. Joanna Macy’s Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory is published by an academic press; her Coming Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World is published by an alternative press specializing in social change.

Robert Aitken, commenting on the shift from Asian Buddhist monasticism to lay practice in the West, has said, “The monastery walls are down.”(18) In some respects, Aitken’s remark also pertains to Buddhist studies in the academy. Fresh voices are entering the discussion, cherished suppositions are being called into question, and brand-new subfields are proliferating. How will engaged Buddhist studies affect mainstream Buddhist studies? At this point such speculation may be premature. But if the question can be taken seriously, the landscape has already changed.

Issues to Explore

In recent years, Buddhists in Asia and the West have tackled a daunting array of issues. As this book demonstrates, the roster of concerns currently includes war resistance, liberation movements, human rights, the environment, education, commerce, race, prison systems, ethnicity, and gender. Any issue of engaged Buddhism is also, by definition, a concordant subject for engaged Buddhist studies.

Opposition to War as a Characteristic Issue

Consider, as an example, resistance to war. The primacy of this theme is evident in the first four chapters, grouped under the heading Engaged Buddhism as Peacemaking. The first Buddhist precept, “Do not kill,” seems to lead directly to pacifism, and many engaged Buddhists indeed regard themselves as pacifists. Prominent Buddhist leaders have become exemplars of nonviolence. The Dalai Lama refuses to fight with the Chinese. Thich Nhat Hanh unambiguously declares, “I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to condone any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life.” The influential Japanese monk Nichidatsu Fujii (1885-1985) made absolute pacifism the touchstone of his thinking and acting. Claude Thomas, Vietnam veteran and a Peacemaker priest since 1995, says, “I’m convinced that we do not need to fight. It is an insane proposition that because we are human beings it is natural for us to fight and kill. Through mindfulness there are ways to resolve conflicts without violence.”(19) Members of the Order of Interbeing accordingly seek to end war “without taking sides.”

The Kosovo crisis in the spring of 1999 posed painful questions for all concerned. The NATO decision to bomb Serbia was intended to halt well-documented genocidal acts that had culminated in thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of refugees. Yet this “humanitarian intervention” itself caused additional civilian casualties and dramatically increased the flood of refugees. Western Buddhists, in common with other concerned citizens of NATO countries, felt compelled to seek answers to the crisis. Alan Senauke spoke for many when he said, “I wonder right at this moment how to respond to American bombs in Serbia and Kosovo when I really have no practical alternative in mind.”(20) Paula Green, whose grassroots reconciliation work in the former Yugoslavia gave her first-hand knowledge of the region, held firmly to a pacifist position. She wrote:

“Our current crisis represents American and NATO faith in military might, an unimaginative and misplaced method of responding to conflict. There have been warnings for years that Kosovo would explode”. Violence and revenge in the Balkans have never achieved peace. In fact we should question the premise of using violence to achieve peace anywhere. We failed to make alliances with the sizable, well-organized movement for nonviolent social change in Kosovo.”(21)

Other Buddhists, equally earnest, reached different conclusions. Bodhin Kjolhede, abbot of the Rochester Zen Center, argued that nonviolent means had failed to halt Serbian atrocities. He insisted:

“We have a responsibility to respond. That’s what responsibility means in Zen: responsiveness. If there is such a thing as a justifiable war, then this would appear to be it. What else could NATO have done under these circumstances, when Milosevic would not cease and desist from his ethnic atrocities, in spite of what many would argue were extraordinarily patient efforts to find a nonviolent resolution? I am willing to come out and say that we needed to intervene militarily.”(22)

Such divergent positions suggest that Buddhist resistance to war merits closer examination. Does sustained Buddhist practice engender special insight into complex worldly issues? Not necessarily. Does a commitment to engaged Buddhism yield ready-made answers in times of crisis? Apparently not.

In the West, strategists and theologians alike have turned to just-war theories, which go back at least as far as Aristotle. Here is one definition: “A just war is a morally justifiable war after justice, human rights, the common good, and all other relevant moral concepts have been consulted and weighed against the facts and against each other.”(23) Just-war thinking is evident in Kjolhede’s statement. Helen Tworkov, editor of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, is similarly explicit:

“[Pacifism] is a position for which I have enormous respect, but it’s not one that I share. I am drawn to those schools of Buddhism in which “killing” becomes part of a more complex conversation; in the Balkans, the alleviation of suffering emerges as the prime motive for war, and the strategies accommodate paradox and contradiction.”(24)

Just-war statecraft not only addresses permissible conditions for beginning a war; it also considers how a war should be fought once it has begun. Yet the principled pragmatism of just-war theory can be a slippery slope, leading to purported justifications that have little or no moral validity. In the long sweep of Buddhist history, it is not hard to find abuses: a twentieth-century example is the fervent embrace of militarism by many Japanese Buddhists during World War II.

If this is an opportune time to undertake a fresh critique of Buddhist pacifism, a pertinent model might be the work of the late Christian theologian John H. Yoder. A forceful advocate of nonviolence, Yoder nonetheless criticized certain varieties of religious pacifism as naive, sentimental, and dependent on utopian views of human nature. “That innocent suffering is powerful is not easy to believe,” Yoder wrote. “Specifically, the bearers of power in our societies do not believe in that view, or they would not oppress as they do.”(25) Can it be that pacifism and just-war reasoning are equally valid options for present-day Buddhists? The question deserves more attention than it has yet received.

Common Issues

Peacemaking is a domain-specific issue (however vast the domain), along with human rights, the environment, and so on. These issues are characteristic of engaged Buddhism. All could be examined in the above manner, but for now we must let one example suffice. There are other engaged Buddhist concerns, no more or less important, that cut across specific domains. For example: What is the relation between wisdom and compassionate action? Let’s call this second group common issues. Four are presented below in the form of questions.

What constitutes engagement? This basic question is a central motif of the present volume, eliciting a range of responses. As noted above, Patricia Hunt-Perry and Lyn Fine believe that “all Buddhism is engaged,” and Paula Green asserts that “every moment of life is engagement.” Others seek sharper-edged definitions. Christopher Queen, interviewing Zen teacher Bernard Glassman, asks, “What about a woman who stays home and cares for her family? Does one have to be involved in politics [to be engaged]?” David Chappell asks if Soka Gakkai International-USA is socially engaged, and, citing SGI-USA’s demonstrable success in fighting racism, he concludes that it is. Roger Corless considers whether the activities of the Gay Buddhist Fellowship qualify as engagement. He too answers affirmatively, citing as criteria”the healing of homophobia” and “liberation from suffering.” When Robert Aitken was asked, “Would you accept zazen [meditation] as a form of social action?” he gave a deceptively informal reply: “Probably not generally, but it could be.”(26) One can see how meditating in protest alongside the tracks of weapons-bearing trains constitutes social action (a group in California does this). Might there also be situations when meditating quietly in one’s room could count as a form of engagement? The issue invites continued scrutiny.

In engaged Buddhism, what becomes of the quest for enlightenment? Again, a variety of stances can be identified. Bernard Glassman, reflecting on his own experience, writes:

“In the beginning I believed that a diligent meditation practice was the answer. In fact, I was a fanatic about meditation and retreats. I thought that if I persevered I would become enlightened, like Shakyamuni Buddha 2,500 years ago. If I concentrated hard enough, I would experience what he experienced. And then I would go out and take action. It took me a long time to understand that I couldn’t wait till then to take action.” (27)

Some fear that in less capable hands such retrospection could give way to laxity or self-deception. Engaged Buddhism would then become a cop-out for frustrated meditators, a kind of Buddhism Lite. Toni Packer, a teacher originally trained in Zen, maintains that inwardly focused spiritual practice still takes precedence:

“Am I driven to do something helpful for humanity or the endangered planet because I feel deeply, achingly, apart from it all?” Can we wake up to the fact that separateness isn’t real at all – that it exists only in thoughts, images, feelings? Are we interested in finding out the truth of this?”(28)

Packer’s line of questioning infers that unless one has achieved at least some degree of spiritual insight, engagement is little more than a misguided attempt to salve unrecognized inner needs. Others perceive engagement as worthwhile but properly subsumed by the process of awakening. For Stephen Batchelor, cited by Sandra Bell, the ideal of wisdom has long been in “classic tension” with the ideal of compassion, which corresponds to engagement. From this perspective, a deepening of wisdom is accompanied naturally by a deepening of compassion, so the whole notion of making an issue out of engagement becomes somewhat superfluous.”

A nondualistic understanding of the relation between enlightenment and engagement honors both “inner” work and “outer” work as mutually reinforcing and ultimately inseparable. While enlightenment remains a matchless goal, pursuit of that goal in isolation has limited value. As Batchelor concludes, “We cannot awaken for ourselves: we can only participate in the awakening of life.”(29) In this spirit, some engaged Buddhists are investigating the proposition that social engagement can serve explicitly as a practice that leads to and expands awakening. To give this path a name requires a string of adjectives, such as “socially engaged Buddhist spiritual practices.” Advocates of engagement as a road to awakening readily concede that further exploration is needed: “The question is whether socially engaged practice in the world can approximate the depth and focus of traditional training.”(30)

What is the relation between personal transformation and social change? When classic Buddhist texts address the practitioner’s potential effect on others, the language tends to be abstract and even paradoxical. A well-known passage in the Diamond Sutra states, “As many beings as there are in the universe of beings – all these I must lead to Nirvana. And yet, although innumerable beings have thus been led to Nirvana, no being at all has been led to Nirvana.”(31) The Avatamsaka Sutra declares, “The bodhisattva will not give up one single living being for the sake of all beings, nor will he give up all beings for the sake of one living being.”(32)

Without rejecting such formulations, contemporary Buddhists are framing a parallel set of concerns in more nitty-gritty terms. Does traditional Buddhist practice prepare people adequately for engaging in the world? What are the links, on a practical level, between spiritual insight and improved social conditions? Does the practice of right livelihood contribute meaningfully to the creation of a new society? It is often assumed that compassion almost automatically leads to the alleviation of others’ suffering. Yet ethicist Lee Yearley, in a conversation with the Dalai Lama, cautions against oversimplification:

“Many modern Westerners believe compassion provides an insufficient basis for an ethical system although all would agree that compassion is an important personal trait. These critics of compassion point to the fact that in spite of the ideal of compassion, Christianity and other traditions have tolerated many kinds of injustice. Most important, they believe that this fact is not simply a matter of chance, but shows the problems inherent in the idea of basing ethics on compassion.

“Most people normally feel compassion only at some times or toward some people. Compassion can tell me how to react to a suffering person I encounter on the street, but it alone cannot tell me what I should do to make sure that person, and others like that person, do not suffer any more.”(33)

Are the activities of engaged Buddhists distinctively Buddhist? Darrell Wratten, in his essay on South Africa, tells of one Buddhist who led a peace pilgrimage in celebration of democracy, another who undertook a forty-day vigil and fast against the detention of children, and a third who established a precedent for conscientious objection to the military draft. Wratten then remarks:

“It is less clear to what extent [these activities] are distinctively Buddhist examples of socially engaged practice. The actions of each were inspired by a critical and contextual reading of general Buddhist precepts, but their symbolic acts of opposition – a peace march, a vigil, a fast – were not essentially incongruous with Christian Catholic, Protestant, or Muslim anti-apartheid activities.”

In recent years this issue has been raised by Helen Tworkov, who asks point-blank, “What makes engaged Buddhism Buddhist?” (34) Several possible answers can be glimpsed in these pages and kindred sources, as follows.

(1) Current activities of engaged Buddhists are not distinctively Buddhist. In 1994 Tworkov wrote:

“If the essential emptiness of one’s own Buddha-nature is not plumbed as the source for ethical action and compassion, and if ethics is separated from realization, then what is called “Buddhist ethics” offers nothing new to a predominantly Christian society.”(35)

Five years later, Tworkov remains unconvinced that there is anything distinctively Buddhist about engaged Buddhism: “Social action, as distinct from radical political action, is sanctioned – even, shall we say, favored by the Protestant ethic that continues to dominate this culture?. Is it possible to have anything but Protestant Buddhism?”(36)

(2) Granted, engaged Buddhism is not yet distinctively Buddhist, but superficiality and hybridity are natural, necessary stages of a religious movement’s development, especially in a new culture. In Bell’s essay on Britain we learn that disciples of Akong Rinpoche have established a small business, Tara Associates, specializing in “personal development for people at work.” Buddhist management consultants? At first one may be inclined to scoff. But what if a decade of experimentation yields new ways to actualize right livelihood in the workplace?

(3) Yes, contemporary engaged Buddhism is distinctively Buddhist. In this view, engaged Buddhism is a genuine expression of cardinal Buddhist teachings such as compassion and the way of the bodhisattva. Further, engaged Buddhists’ insistence on linking inner and outer transformation differs from the forms of social activism that have predominated in the West. Thus Janet McLellan declares in her essay on Toronto, “Buddhists do not become Protestants (or even Protestant Buddhists) when they embrace engaged practices.”

(4) It does not matter: engaged Buddhism does not have to be distinctively Buddhist. For instance, leaders such as Thich Nhat Hanh and Sulak Sivaraksa speak of “buddhism with a small b,” a reminder not to become sectarian. It might be possible to be a Buddhist and an activist without seeking to fuse the two roles. Some representatives of this stance are unfazed by prospective influences from other traditions: Litsch, writing in Germany, entertains the idea that “Buddhism could experience an expansion by means of a central teaching of Christianity and thereby become more Christian.?”

Skillful Means

An emerging field must clarify its methods as well as its subject matter. Method has always been crucial in Buddhism as well. “The Compassionate Teacher is said to have guided beings to penetrate reality through many methods and doors of reasoning,” wrote the fifteenth-century Tibetan master Tsongkhapa.(37) The use of “skillful means” (upaya in Sanskrit) is above all a matter of communicating truth, especially in the service of bringing others to awakening.(38) Method as a liberative art is where real Buddhist masters –Tibetan, Zen, all stripes – shine. The spirit of skillful means may also serve as a guide in the development of methodologies suitable to engaged Buddhist studies.

There are two broad areas to consider: social scientific modes and doctrinal modes. Social science is an umbrella term for history, sociology, psychology, and related fields. Although it is not possible to elaborate here, each field has distinctive ways of gathering data, constructing arguments, and justifying conclusions. Many of those same methods are applicable to the study of engaged Buddhism.

As in mainstream Buddhist studies, history is a good place to start. Westerners embracing Asian religions have tended to give short shrift to the cultural roots of their spiritual traditions. The perils of shallow historical understanding become evident, for example, when unwelcome realities of a tradition’s past are belatedly brought to light. Most of the essays in this book conscientiously trace the history, however recent, of the group or activity under consideration. In the process, the authors demonstrate that such information is not merely informative; it also sparks insight.

The value of a sociological approach can be seen in David Chappell’s study. To determine the racial composition of Soka Gakkai International-USA, he sampled 2,500 SGI-USA leaders from nine cities. Although statistical analysis may initially seem far removed from the spirit of religious life, Chappell uses his data to show how SGI-USA’s sustained opposition to racism is indeed an expression of Buddhist spirituality and engagement. His findings thereby rebut old stereotypes.

Psychological studies focused on engaged Buddhism might strengthen our understanding of mindfulness, Buddhist-related approaches to healing, the roots of altruism, and comparable topics. For example, Batchelor raises provocative questions about motivation:

“What motivates a person to adopt engaged Buddhism? Is it because they feel they have to somehow justify themselves in the light of Western criticism of Buddhism? Or is it a spontaneous and genuine outflow of their Buddhist practice?” The second general mode of engaged Buddhist studies methodology is doctrinal thinking. Most of the characteristic and common issues noted above can be considered doctrinally. In the area of Buddhism and ecology, for example, there have been several rounds of stimulating exchanges. The pioneering 1997 book Buddhism and Ecology: The Interconnection of Dharma and Deeds, edited by Mary Evelyn Tucker and Duncan Williams, presents a number of essays in a doctrinal mode, such as “Is There a Buddhist Philosophy of Nature?” and “The Hermeneutics of Buddhist Ecology in Contemporary Thailand.” Alan Sponberg, addressing “Green Buddhism and the Hierarchy of Compassion,” integrates Western ethical theory, Buddhist spirituality, and an urgent issue:

“A Buddhist environmental ethic is hence a “virtue ethic,” one that asks not just which specific actions are necessary to preserve the environment but, more deeply, what are the virtues (that is, the precepts and perfections) we must cultivate in order to be able to act in such a way.”(39)

The possible affinities between Buddhism and principles of human rights have generated another spirited discussion. Kenneth Inada sees a basis for a concept of human rights in Buddhist teachings about relational origination, which promote the “mutual respect of fellow beings.”(40) Damien Keown points instead to a sense of human dignity derived from a universally shared potential for enlightenment.(41) However, others are not satisfied that lingering inconsistencies have been resolved. There is little in premodern Buddhism that corresponds to the well-grounded Western idea of rights. As for humans, Buddhism goes to great lengths to deconstruct the usual notions of self. Thus Michel Clasquin, a South African Buddhist, argues, “Buddhists cannot logically use the term “human rights” without involving themselves in a contradiction in terms of their own religio-philosophical system.” For the first time, such questions are receiving book-length treatment, as in the 1998 volume Buddhism and Human Rights.

Some doctrinal ruminations are similar to aspects of modern Western theology. It may already be possible to identify a cluster of foundational tenets as the rudiments of “engaged Buddhist doctrine.” Is there agreement that acceptance of X idea, or access to Y experience, or adherence to Z teacher is an essential element of being an engaged Buddhist? This is also where discussions of applied ethics can be found. Concerned Buddhists are beginning to weigh in on some of the knotty and controversial issues of the day: abortion, euthanasia, biomedical research, genetic engineering, and so on. Rita Gross’s agenda is candidly constructivist:

“[We] wish to use the wisdom and compassion we have learned from our study and practice of Buddhism to construct religious thought that speaks to contemporary issues and problems.”(42)

It will not be long before engaged Buddhist studies will have its own store of texts to evaluate, just as texts play an important role in mainstream Buddhist studies. Among the many possibilities, two candidates are cited by Virginia Cohn Parkum and Anthony Stultz in their essay. The Training Manual for Zen Buddhist Practice, published in loose-leaf form by the National Buddhist Prison Sangha, includes the Heart Sutra, the four bodhisattva vows, and guidelines for meditating in a cell. The magazine Gateway Journal, published by the Engaged Zen Foundation and dedicated exclusively to prison practice, has a circulation of 3,000 and is available over the Internet. Other possibilities include collections of mindfulness verses for daily practice, pledges taken by participants in nonviolent demonstrations, and passages recited in ecologically oriented ceremonies.

It may also be appropriate to apply some of the tools of philology, long favored in Buddhist studies, to the texts of engaged Buddhism. We have already seen how “engagement,” “compassion,” and other pivotal words are being problematized. Is there an emerging core of key terms? What do they mean in theory and in practice? At least three types merit attention: classic terms undergoing reinterpretation, Western-language terms crucial to engaged Buddhist vocabulary, and neologisms.

“Karma” is an example of a classic term that is being reinterpreted. When Wratten refers in his essay to the “national karma” of South Africa, most readers probably intuit what he means, even though we would have to search the sutras a long time before finding a locus classicus for such an expression. Another term being put to new uses is “right livelihood” (Pali, samma kammanta), as Claude Whitmyer shows:

“Whether right livelihood is actually possible, given the complexities of life in the modern world, is a question that many people ask. It seems clear, upon close examination, that most of the work we do today fails in one way or another to meet all of the criteria, especially the social criteria of responsibility for the long-term consequences of our work.”(43)

Robert Aitken’s philological sensitivity is evident in his reexamination of the classic Buddhist concepts of karuna, metta, and mudita, usually translated as compassion, loving-kindness, and sympathetic joy. Aitken reflects:

“Whether or not karuna is as intimate in sentiment as “compassion,” and however enriching the English term “compassion” can be for our practice, the fact remains that both “compassion” and karuna are limited to the realm of sadness. To be as inclusive as the northern European words, we must combine the first two abodes, metta and karuna, with the third abode, mudita. Usually translated “sympathetic joy,” mudita is the delight one feels when someone else finds liberation on the path. Perhaps karuna and mudita could be hyphenated to coin an encompassing term.” (44)

A number of Western words are beginning to play the role of technical terms. Often they lack precise Buddhist equivalents. An example is “universal responsibility,” an expression embraced by the Dalai Lama; although there are comparable notions in Buddhism, the phrase has a distinctly Western ring. In the context of engaged Buddhism its meaning is still being clarified, as the Dalai Lama himself observes:

“Universal responsibility is the best foundation for our personal happiness, and for world peace, the equitable use of our natural resources, and, through a concern for future generations, the proper care for the environment. My own ideas about this are still evolving.” (45)

“Activism,” an important word/concept with many Western roots but few Asian ones, is another example. Joanna Macy’s reflections, as cited by Susan Moon, are illustrative:

““Activism” is a term I use with some discomfort, because it implies that it’s different from ordinary life. If you rush to pull your kid from under the wheels of a truck, are you being an activist? I don’t like the moral self-consciousness of the word, or the moral self-righteousness. Is it activism to open your eyes and learn to see?”

Neologisms constitute a third group of key terms. “Engaged Buddhism” is itself a new expression (since the 1960s). Some Buddhist environmental activists call themselves “ecosattvas,” as Stephanie Kaza reports. When Thich Nhat Hanh coined the influential “interbeing,” he intentionally distinguished it from a cognate term, interpenetration:

“When we realize our nature of interbeing, we will stop blaming and killing, because we know that we inter-are. Interpenetration is an important teaching, but it still suggests that things outside of one another penetrate into each other. Interbeing is a step forward. We are already inside, so we don’t have to enter.”(46)

Further coinages are bound to arise. In his introduction, Christopher Queen advances the idea of a “fourth yana” to characterize modern Buddhism’s turn toward engagement. Its predecessors are Mahayana, Hinayana, and Vajrayana; yana literally means vehicle. If the notion of a fourth yana proves useful, it will need a name. How about Terrayana? As a prefix, the Latin word for Earth would suggest that engaged Buddhism is an encompassing, earthy spirituality rather than an otherworldly quest for private salvation. Buddhist environmentalism is already an important stream of contemporary Buddhism, and the striking photos of our blue planet in space remind us that Earth is indeed our common vehicle. Etymologically, Terrayana combines East and West, as global Buddhism now does; rhythmically, Terrayana maintains the syllable count of its predecessors.

A Test Case: The Monk Nichiren

To illustrate some of the methodological challenges of engaged Buddhist studies, let us consider the Japanese monk Nichiren (1222 1282), who has been cited as an exemplar of engaged Buddhism. Nichiren founded the Nichiren sect, and he is the spiritual ancestor of two engaged Buddhist groups that are active internationally, Soka Gakkai and Nipponzan Myohoji. Several essays in this book refer to his life and teachings.

Was Nichiren an engaged Buddhist? Briefly, here are the arguments for the affirmative. Nichiren called for sweeping spiritual and social reform, boldly defying religious and governmental authorities. He was part of a larger movement to popularize Buddhism: “It welcomed all men and women, rejected the exclusivity of the monastic life away from the world, and questioned the relevance of formal religious rules and regulations.” (47) Nichiren had a vision of a universal Buddhism, and he saw himself as a bodhisattva.

At the next level of inquiry, complexities arise. Nichiren’s thought and actions stemmed from his understanding of the Lotus Sutra. Jacqueline Stone, a scholar of medieval Japanese Buddhism, writes:

“Nichiren seems to have believed that the spread of faith in the Lotus Sutra would bring about harmony withnature, long life, and just government?. His thinking draws on some sophisticated Tendai teachings concerning the nonduality of the individual and theouter world, or subjective and objective realms. Thus in his view thebeliever has an obligation to spread faith in the Lotus Sutra, out of compassion for others and because it has consequences for this world(and in the next).” (48)

Nichiren’s religious vision was strongly Japan-centered; what he recognized as universal Buddhism was a Japanese orthodoxy that subsumed Indian and Chinese Buddhism. Commenting on the word “world” in the Lotus Sutra, he wrote, “By “world,” Japan is meant.”(49) He was openly intolerant of other Buddhist teachers and sects, and his stated concern for the status of women had its limits.(50) Nichiren did not see himself as a bodhisattva in a general sense, but as the specific bodhisattva Visistacaritra (Eminent Conduct), uniquely ordained to save Japan: “In the present I am unmistakably the one who is realizing the Lotus of Truth.” Rather than shunning militarism, he hoped that the Mongols (recently victorious in China) would invade Japan to cleanse it of corruption, and he was depressed when the Mongols’ attempted invasions failed.(51)

Directing attention to the engagement of past Buddhist leaders brings several benefits. At the least, such assessments help to dispel the oversimplification that Buddhism is world-denying. To call Nichiren or Shakyamuni or others “engaged” often casts their lives in a new light, thereby enabling fresh appreciation of their teachings. These steps fulfill another vital function for today’s engaged Buddhists: they serve to confer legitimacy on contemporary developments, reassuring participants that engaged Buddhism remains authentically within the Buddhist tradition. In a general sense, then, continuities can certainly be acknowledged. Bardwell Smith writes:

“One wonders about the overly sharp distinction that is made between modern forms of Buddhist engagement, however unprecedented many of their features may be, and those that have occurred over the centuries, almost as if there were no prophetic or deeply engaged precursors in Buddhist history.” (52)

However, there is a trade-off. If in order to accommodate cases from the past, the terms “engaged Buddhist” or “engaged Buddhism” are stretched beyond a certain point, they lose significant chunks of meaning. We have seen that Nichiren’s conception of spiritual and social reform had one overriding aim: have everyone take refuge in the Lotus Sutra. The worldview of a premodern figure and the worldview of a present-day engaged Buddhist may differ so fundamentally that to lump the two together does justice to neither. This is the conclusion reached by Stone:

“Although Nichiren’s teaching had both a strong social component and an element of socialresponsibility, he was not concerned with such issues as charitable acts or efforts in socialimprovement for their own sake?. I don’t see him as “socially engaged” in the more usual contemporary senses of the term.” (53) Methodological Issues

Methodological issues differ from characteristic issues (i.e., war resistance) and common issues (i.e., personal/social change). Three examples should suffice here: uses of Buddhist tradition, room for criticism, and openness to new methods. Each of these issues can again be framed as a question.

When do reevaluations of traditional Buddhism go too far? That is, when do fresh interpretations, often in the service of engagement, distort Buddhism’s past inauthentically? The case of Nichiren is but one example. Another, “Sangha,” originally referred to the community of monks but is now being recast in various ways. For some, Sangha represents a proto - democratic form of social organization. In Robert Goss’s essay it becomes an “alternative educational community.” Robert Thurman sees Sangha as a “monastic army of peace.”(54) Bill Devall proposes an “ecocentric Sangha” dedicated to “self-realization for all beings, not just human beings.”(55) Litsch writes:

“The Sangha, as the community of those who proceed on the way to Buddhahood, becomes the community of all beings, all life, and all evolving processes on our planet, which are bound up in this path. Thich Nhat Hanh can thus speak about the coming Buddha, Maitreya, possibly appearing on the earth not in the form of a single person, but in the form of a great spiritual community, a Sangha.”

Other elements of past Buddhism are also being appropriated in new ways. According to the sutras, Angulimala was a murderer who became a disciple of the Buddha. Is it acceptable to use Angulimala as the patron saint of a modern prison-reform movement? “Wall-gazing” initially specified the meditation practice of the semi-legendary sixth-century monk Bodhidharma. Is is permissible to use the term today to describe meditation in a prison cell? Wratten suggests that the Buddhist teachings of no self, impermanence, and dependent origination “provide a penetrating critique of race, class, and gender associations.” Is that a justifiable application of those teachings? Andrew Olendzki draws extensively from the Pali canon in his discussion of Kabat-Zinn’s stress-reduction work. He cites the following passage:

“To which the Buddha replied, “It is true, sir, that your body is weak and afflicted. Therefore, sir, you should train yourself: Though my body is sick, my mind shall not be sick.”

For Olendzki, past and present converge seamlessly: “One can almost imagine this precise conversation occurring at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester.” All such uses of the past compel methodologically aware reflection. We must ask, without prejudging the answer: When is the stretch from traditional Buddhism to engaged Buddhism too big?

Are assessments of engaged Buddhist leaders too restrained? The Dalai Lama is so universally admired (outside China) that one seldom hears a discouraging word about him. Other leading Buddhists, if judged at all, are typically questioned in gentle asides. John Powers, in his essay on the Campaign for Tibet, at least raises an eyebrow when he notes the unusual career of action-movie star Steven Segal, now recognized as a tulku, a reincarnate Tibetan lama:

“His Buddhist spirituality is on diplay in his movie The Glimmer Man, in which he wears Tibetan prayer beads around his neck and speaks of cultivating inner peace. In the following scene, however, someone insults his sissy beads and he kicks him through a glass door, indicating that he may still need to put in more quality time on the meditation cushion.”

Respect does not obviate the need for constructive criticism. Bernard Glassman has been charged with (in his own words) “moving too much to social action and leaving Zen behind.” It is a point worth discussing. Conversely, some activists are concerned that Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings increasingly emphasize individual calm and local Sangha-building at the cost of confronting larger political realities. That too deserves debate. Sallie King, deeply disturbed by the practice of self-immolation, goes so far as to disagree with Nhat Hanh’s claim that Buddhist leaders ordinarily try to prevent it. “I must point out,” King writes, “that Nhat Hanh’s statement is not strictly true.”(56)

Does engaged Buddhist studies propose any new methods? An emerging field may permit, or require, some new approaches. For example, Stephanie Kaza experiments with a traditional technique of Buddhist logic, the tetralemma, in an essay on human-nature relations. She asks, “Can we keep peace with nature " and then shows how the question can be answered four ways: yes, no, yes and no, neither yes nor no.(57) In a different vein, innovative praxis-linked methodologies might incorporate meditation or community-based learning.

Not knowing may even be a candidate for a new method. Queen, in his essay on Glassman’s work, observes that a type of agnosticism is shared by Glassman, Nhat Hanh, Batchelor, and other leading engaged Buddhist figures. In Buddhism not knowing is quite different from an ordinary profession of ignorance. Two well-known examples are the Buddha’s silence on certain existential questions, and Bodhidharma’s enigmatic answer, “I don’t know,” in reply to the sixth-century Chinese emperor Wu. Not knowing is intimately related to learning and insight, which are valued in Buddhist practice and Buddhist studies alike. Queen asks Glassman, “Why are you attracted to places of great suffering the inner city, Auschwitz, the notorious needle park called the Letten in Zurich?”

Glassman replies:

“I don’t know. The words that come to me are the desire to learn. I don’t know what it is, but it happens a lot to me when I encounter a situation I don’t understand. It generally involves suffering. When I enter a situation that is too much for me and that I don’t understand” I have a desire to sit there, to stay a while.”

Doubt, in the sense of deep questioning, is an essential element of koan practice in Zen. This approach may contain the seeds of a method with fruitful applications in several areas, from social theory to the ecocrisis. Can the planet be saved? We don’t know. And that uncertainty must be taken into consideration in environmental work. Because agnosticism is sometimes interpreted as a tepid or unwelcome doubt, and because it carries baggage from Christian theology and Western intellectual traditions, a distinctively Buddhist form may require a tag such as “deep agnosticism.”

In 1977, when few Westerners were familiar with engaged Buddhism, political scientist William Ophuls wrote:

“A Buddhist philosopher works with the grain of history, respecting the actual situation: he has no grand designs, no inflexible ideologies, no particular set of institutions to peddle only the principle of upaya, or “skillful means” that manifest wisdom in action.” (58) As engaged Buddhist thinkers continue to refine methodologies, the concept of skillful means will itself be subjected to new tests. On this, Western scholars and Buddhist practitioners agree: a good method must also be a self-reflective one.


The process of articulating a field is not only an avenue to understanding; it can also be a type of engagement. We are compelled to define terms, make distinctions, take stands, and accept the consequences of taking stands. It is of course possible to study Buddhist ethics from the outside, and that approach has its place. In engaged Buddhist studies, the ethical issues within the work are recognized as well. As the participants in the Sarvodaya movement have discovered, “We build the road, and the road builds us.”

The next steps may be respectably deliberate or freely experimental. Eventually the field may support networks and other forms of organization that accommodate both Sangha thinkers and academy scholars. I can imagine an Engaged Buddhist Forum or a Partnership for Research on Buddhist Engagement (which yields the acronym PROBE). Even if efforts in that direction come to naught, the underlying questions will not vary much. One of those questions is, How best to respond to the plight of the world? The twenty authors of this book concur unanimously on the first part of the answer:

We must be engaged.

End Notes

I am grateful to Wes Borden, Stephanie Kaza, Trudy Kraft, Donald Swearer, and William Washburn for their thoughtful comments on a draft of this essay.

1.Tricycle: The Buddhist Review 8:3 (spring 1999), 117.

2.Here is a far-from-definitive list of books published in the past decade (since 1989) that represent work in engaged Buddhist studies:

Beyond Optimism: A Buddhist Political Ecology, by Ken Jones;

Buddhism and Bioethics, by Damien Keown;

Buddhism and Ecology: The Interconnection of Dharma and Deeds, edited by Mary Evelyn Tucker and Duncan Williams;

Buddhism and Human Rights, edited by Damien Keown and others;

Buddhism after Patriarchy: A Feminist History, Analysis, and Recoconstruction of Buddhism, by Rita Gross;

Dharma Rain: Sources of Buddhist Environmentalism, edited by Stephanie Kaza and Kenneth Kraft;

Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist Liberation Movements in Asia, edited by Christopher Queen and Sallie King;

Engaged Buddhist Reader, edited by Arnold Kotler;

Entering the Realm of Reality: Towards Dhammic Societies, edited by Jonathan Watts and others;

Inner Peace, World Peace: Essays on Buddhism and Nonviolence, edited by Kenneth Kraft;

Inner Revolution: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Real Happiness, by Robert Thurman;

Luminous Passage: The Practice and Study of Buddhism in America, by Charles Prebish;

Mindfulness and Meaningful Work: Explorations in Right Livelihood, edited by Claude Whitmyer;

Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory: The Dharma of Natural Systems, by Joanna Macy;

Soaring and Settling: Buddhist Perspectives on Contemporary Social and Religious Issues, by Rita Gross;

The Social Face of Buddhism, by Ken Jones; Socially Engaged Buddhism for the New Millennium, edited by Sulak Sivaraksa and others;

World as Lover, World as Self, by Joanna Macy.

3. The scholarly Journal of Buddhist Ethics, inaugurated in 1994, is distributed online. Seeds of Peace (1985 ) is edited in Thailand by the International Network of Engaged Buddhists. Turning Wheel (1991 ) is published quarterly by the Buddhist Peace Fellowship.

4. For an insightful assessment of Aum Shinrikyo, see Robert Jay Lifton, “Reflections on Aum Shinrikyo,” in Charles B. Strozier and Michael Flynn, eds., The Year 2000: Essays on the End (New York: New York University Press, 1997), 112-120.

5. Donald S. Lopez, Jr., Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 171.

6. Donald Swearer kindly shared his observations of a 1997 conference on the field of Buddhist studies held at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand. Bernard Faure, The Rhetoric of Immediacy: A Cultural Critique of Chan/Zen Buddhism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), 3.

7. Bernard Faure, The Rhetoric of Immediacy: A Cultural Critique of Chan/Zen Buddhism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), 3.

8. “[F]rom a positivist point of view, normative forms of discourse fall outside the scope of Buddhist Studies. From the interpretivist perspective, on the other hand, there does eixst a place within the academy for these modes of analysis.” Jose Ignacio Cabezon, “Buddhist Studies as a Discipline and the Role of Theory,” in Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 18:2 (1995), 260.

9. Richard P. Hayes, Land of No Buddha: Reflections of a Sceptical Buddhist (Birmingham: Windhorse Publications, 1998), 8.

10. Jeffrey Hopkins, The Tantric Distinction: A Buddhist’s Reflections on Compassion and Emptiness (Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 1999). The blurb is from Wisdom’s Buddhist Studies 1999” catalogue.

11. Luis O. Gomez, “Unspoken Paradigms: Meanderings through the Metaphors of a Field,” in Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 18:2 (1995), 190.

12. Franz Aubrey Metcalf, review of Charles S. Prebish and Kenneth K. Tanaka, eds., The Faces of Buddhism in America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), in Journal of Buddhist Ethics 6 (1999).

13. Charles S. Prebish, Luminous Passage: The Practice and Study of Buddhism in America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 266.

14. Charles S. Prebish, “The Academic Study of Buddhism in America: A Silent Sangha,” in Duncan Ryuken Williams and Christopher S. Queen, eds., American Buddhism: Methods and Findings in Recent Scholarship (Surrey, England: Curzon Press, 1999), 183-214.

15. Roger Corless, “Coming Out in the Sangha: Queer Community in American Buddhism,” in Prebish and Tanaka, The Faces of Buddhism in America, 331 n27.

16. Sallie B. King, “They Who Burn Themselves for Peace: Buddhist Self-Immolation,” in Sulak Sivaraksa et al, eds., Socially Engaged Buddhism for the New Millennium (Bangkok, Thailand: Sathirakoses - Nagapradipa Foundation and Foundation for Children, 1999), 295.

17. Personal correspondence from Ken Jones to Sandra Bell, January 25, 1997. Jones proposes to call engaged Buddhist social theory “engaged Buddhology.”

18. Helen Tworkov, “Buddhism without Walls: An Interview with Robert Aitken Roshi,” in Tricycle: The Buddhist Review 8:3 (spring 1999), 46.

19. Claude Thomas, “Finding Peace after a Lifetime of War,” in Arnold Kotler, ed., Engaged Buddhist Reader (Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1996), 99.

20. Alan Senauke, letter circulated on the Internet, April 7, 1999.

21. Paula Green, letter to supporters of the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding, April 1999.

22. Bodhin Kjolhede, “Zen at War,” Dharma talk at the Rochester Zen Center, Rochester, New York, April 11, 1999.

23. Douglas P. Lackey, “Just War Theory,” in Larry May and Shari Collins Sharratt, eds., Applied Ethics: A Multicultural Approach (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1994), 200.

24. Helen Tworkov, “The Karma of Words,” in Tricycle: The Buddhist Review 8:4 (summer 1999), 4.

25. John Howard Yoder, Nevertheless: A Meditation on the Varieties and Shortcomings of Religious Pacifism (Scottdate, Pa.: Herald Press, 1971, 1992), 127.

26. Tworkov, “Buddhism without Walls: An Interview with Robert Aitken Roshi,” 47.

27. Bernie Glassman, Bearing Witness: A Zen Master’s Lessons in Making Peace (New York: Bell Tower, 1998), 85.

28. Toni Packer, “What Is Right Livelihood?” in Claude Whitmyer, ed., Mindfulness and Meaningful Work: Explorations in Right Livelihood (Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1994), 58-9.

29. Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism without Beliefs (New York: Riverhead Books, 1997), 90.

30. Donald Rothberg, “Responding to the Cries of the World: Socially Engaged Buddhism in North America,” in Prebish and Tanaka, The Faces of Buddhism in America, 285.

31. Edward Conze, trans., Buddhist Wisdom Books (New York: Harper & Row, 1972), 25.

32. Cited in Luis O. Gomez, “Nonviolence and the Self in Early Buddhism,” in Kenneth Kraft, ed., Inner Peace, World Peace: Essays on Buddhism and Nonviolence (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992), 46.

33. Lee Yearley, “Three Views of Virtue,” in Daniel Goleman, ed., Healing Emotions (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1997), 15-16.

34. Tworkov, “Buddhism without Walls: An Interview with Robert Aitken Roshi,” 45.

35. Helen Tworkov, Zen in America: Five Teachers and the Search for an American Buddhism, rev. ed. (New York: Kodansha International, 1994), 263.

36. Tworkov, “Buddhism without Walls: An Interview with Robert Aitken Roshi,” 47.

37. Donald S. Lopez, Jr., “On the Interpretation of the Mahayana Sutras,” in Donald S. Lopez, Jr., ed., Buddhist Hermeneutics (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1988), 66.

38. See Michael Pye, Skillful Means (London: Duckworth, 1978). Another English translation of upaya is “expedient means,” which carries both positive and negative nuances. That rendering is justified by uses of the term in the Lotus Sutra and other texts.

39. Alan Sponberg, “Green Buddhism and the Hierarchy of Compassion,” in Mary Evelyn Tucker and Duncan Ryuken Williams, eds., Buddhism and Ecology: The Interconnection of Dharma and Deeds (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997), 370.

40. Cited in Damien V. Keown, “Are There Human Rights in Buddhism?” in Damien V. Keown, Charles S. Prebish, and Wayne R. Husted, eds., Buddhism and Human Rights (Surrey, England: Curzon Press, 1998), 26-”7.

41. Keown, “Are There Human Rights in Buddhism?” 15-41.

42. Rita M. Gross, Soaring and Settling: Buddhist Perspectives on Contemporary Social and Religious Issues (New York, Continuum, 1998), 155.

43. Claude Whitmyer, “Using Mindfulness to Find Meaningful Work,” in Whitmyer, Mindfulness and Meaningful Work, 262-3.

44. Robert Aitken, “Sorting the Wisdom of Words: Milan Kundera and the Four Noble Abodes,” in Sivaraksa et al, Socially Engaged Buddhism for the New Millennium, 447.

45. The Dalai Lama, “The True Source of Political Success,” in Shambhala Sun 6:3 (January 1998), 38.

46. Thich Nhat Hanh, “The Sun My Heart,” in Kotler, Engaged Buddhist Reader, 169.

47. Martin Collcutt, Five Mountains: The Rinzai Zen Monastic Institution in Medieval Japan (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981), 31.

48. Personal correspondence from Jacqueline Stone, May 24, 1999. Stone devotes a chapter to Nichiren in her forthcoming book Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism (University of Hawaii Press).

49. H. Byron Earhart, Religion in the Japanese Experience: Sources and Interpretations (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1997), 94; Hajime Nakamura, Ways of Thinking of Eastern Peoples, rev. ed. (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1985), 443.

50. Commenting on the work of the Buddhist teacher Honen (1133-1212), Nichiren wrote: “It can lead its author nowhere but to the lower hell.” Ryusaku Tsunoda, Wm. Theodore de Bary, and Donald Keene, eds., Sources of Japanese Tradition, vol. 1 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1969), 218. On attitudes toward women, see Helen Hardacre, Lay Buddhism in Contemporary Japan: Reiyukai Kyodan (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), 205.

51.Daigan and Alicia Matsunaga, Foundation of Japanese Buddhism, vol. 2 (Tokyo: Buddhist Books International, 1976), 154.

52. Bardwell Smith, review of Christopher S. Queen and Sallie B. King, eds., Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist Liberation Movements in Asia (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996), in Journal of the American Academy of Religion 67:2 (June 1999), 500-501.

53. Personal correspondence from Jacqueline Stone, May 24, 1999.

54. Robert Thurman, “Tibet and the Monastic Army of Peace,” in Kraft, Inner Peace, World Peace, 77-90.

55. Bill Devall, “Ecocentric Sangha,” in Allan Hunt Badiner, ed., Dharma Gaia: A Harvest of Essays in Buddhism and Ecology (Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1990), 158.

56. King, “They Who Burn Themselves for Peace: Buddhist Self-Immolation,” 287.

57. Stephanie Kaza, “Can We Keep Peace with Nature?”in Leroy S. Rouner, ed., Religion, Politics, and Peace (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1999), 165-184.

58. William Ophuls, “Buddhist Politics,” in The Ecologist 7:3 (May/June 1977), 84.